Sunday, August 1, 2010

Using generic job descriptions to find (and fire) organizational dead wood

One of the things my firm does is build - and fix – marketing and bizdev teams. This requires assessing current and future staff and, unfortunately, being somewhat merciless when it comes to ensuring they are the right people with the right skills to accomplish the set goals.

Here's (part of) my strategy:

1) Get generic job descriptions for their roles. These are readily available from the trade organizations or your peers in those industries.
2) Assess each line on the job description by the following criteria:
a) Do we need this? If no, cross it off. If yes, continue.
b) Do we, as an organization, value this? And recognize and reward when this is done well? If you answer 'no' to either of these, then this is a big issue. The employee will succeed in an demotivating vacuum. You need to fix this disconnect.
c) Does the person currently do this? If yes, stop.
d) If they are not doing this, are they doing something more valuable? If yes, stop. (But who*, then, can do this?)
e) If they are not doing this and not doing anything more valuable, could they (with reasonable training OK) accomplish this? If no, then see the parens in the title.

Clearly generic job descriptions are only a starting point for these efforts. No organization is exactly like any other. I get that. But the positions within your structure should be benchmarked by some outside standard. Also, when employees compare compensation, this is where they will look. So, at least, you have some common language for your discussions.

More to the point: if the person cannot completely fulfill a generic job description and are not providing alternative value, then you are putting their personal needs above the goals of the department and the company. You should find someone else and they should find a place where their, shall we say, precision skills are more valued.

Now here's the fun and important part.

Before I bring on a new team member (or add to their roles/responsibilities), we clearly discuss the parts of their job that fail test 2b. This becomes their challenge, that is, helping to fix this part of the overall structure of the organization. They are asked to help me create - or develop on their own and then we can discuss – the path to getting the organization to recognize and reward successes here.

Others have written on why it's important to have people create their own paths for success and respect, so I'll end here.


*I have seen too many managers decide that they will add this line item to their own to do list. Wait, let me see if I understand. Your report has more important things to do than fulfill this line on their job description, but you do not? Here's what I do: Hand it down to this employee's subordinate (as a stretch goal) or go back to 2a and cross it off. Your team can't do everything.

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